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The Grand Inquisitor

El Greco– Portrait of Fernando Nino de Guevara, 1600

Your answers to the Grand Inquisitor
In his wine-stained satin lace,
Are irrelevant as answers
Deduced from deepest space.
Your presence in his universe
Confirms him of your crime.
He seeks to seal all passage,
All escape from space and time.

Behind the science of his spectacles
Lives a mind reduced by power.
A gesture from his languid wrists —
All’s over in an hour.

“We seek to keep our faithful
Baptized, confirmed and saved
From those dark, unknown questions
That live beyond the grave.

“Hunched within my velvet throne,
My pen controls the Door
That opens to the vaults of night
Above the killing floor.”

On 3 December 1599, Fernando Niño de Guevara was appointed Grand Inquisitor of Spain. During his tenure as Grand Inquisitor, the Spanish Inquisition burned 240 heretics, plus 96 in effigy. 1,628 other individuals were found guilty and subjected to lesser penalties.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • PA Cat September 29, 2018, 10:54 AM

    Take away the spectacles and replace the biretta with a beret, and you have Guevara updated for the twentieth century.

  • Terry September 29, 2018, 11:03 AM

    Every contemporary Democrat and many Repubs would relish this appointed monsters duties.

  • Howard Nelson September 29, 2018, 11:07 AM

    G, your portrayal of the cold, calculated cruelty of the political pornicians serves truth and, I hope, eventual justice…Justice of the Supreme Courts, earthly and heavenly.

  • Dr. Jay September 29, 2018, 1:56 PM

    “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?” (Chico Marx as Fernando Niño de Guevar, Duck Soup).

  • Andy Texan September 29, 2018, 5:15 PM

    Gorgeous painting.

  • Charles E. Formaggio September 30, 2018, 5:02 PM

    Those stats listed aren’t that high, compared to deaths in wars etc. Israel kills more Gazans every year. Jews lock up plenty of Palestinians in their jails. Figures a Marx brother was spewing anti-Christian hate. Jews were a big reason the Inquisition even needed to exist.

  • Suburbanbanshee October 1, 2018, 6:40 AM

    The first thing to note is that it really was the “Spanish Inquisition,” a partnership between Spanish churchmen and the Spanish king and queen. The popes kept sending messages that it was a bad idea, but the Spanish state and church ignored them. (The kings of every Spanish kingdom had also spent the last several hundred years ignoring Rome on the topic of “don’t marry your cousins, uncles, or other close relations,” as well as on other topics.)

    The second thing to be noted is that the Spanish Inquisition, like the expulsion of Jews and Muslims, did address a real problem. Some Muslims, and even some Jews, were doing pretty crazy jihadi stuff, and a lot of border people in Spain didn’t believe in the rule of any law or the sanctity of any religion. There were Muslims who “converted” to Christianity and then went and slaughtered unarmed folks in the name of Allah, and there were some Jews who were playing all sides. When Protestantism came in, there were both Spanish and foreign Protestant terrorists doing equally crazy things; and there were plenty of insane Christian reactions in village or town mobs, that amounted to slaughtering the innocent. The kings of Spain clearly had to do something, because things were nutso.

    That doesn’t mean it was just, or even a good idea, to expel all non-Catholics, or to put all converts to Catholicism under the microscope. It’s true that the Spanish Inquisition had probably the kindest prisons and judiciaries in Europe at the time; and that it was probably safer to be a non-standard Protestant in Spain than in Elizabeth’s England. But it still wasn’t a great idea, and the blend of church and state made it worse.

    Among the greatest saints in Spanish history, and in all of European history, you find St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Both of them were under constant investigation by the Inquisition for their mystical writings and reform of their orders’ practices. St. Teresa was under particular suspicion because her parents were Jewish converts. But as annoyed as Teresa got at the Inquisition, it was St. John who really suffered injustice — at the hands of his own Carmelite friar brethren, who imprisoned him extrajudicially.

    So yeah, it was often better to be in the hands of the Inquisition than in the hands of your neighbors. But of course that doesn’t make it right.

  • Suburbanbanshee October 1, 2018, 6:43 AM

    Ooh! I just thought of a book idea! Jailbreak Saints! A collection of famous saints who had to break out of prisons, or were helped to do so. (Like St. John of the Cross, who pried a door off its hinges and then went out the window of the room next door.)

    Heh heh.

  • Vanderleun October 1, 2018, 8:45 AM

    Excellent comments, Banshee. Excellent.